Photo by: Jon Roberts (Flickr)
Gardening For Healthy Body, Mind, and Spirit
By contributor Ruby Bayan
We love to garden because we enjoy caring for plants; we give them the nutrition and attention they need to grow healthy and achieve their purpose in nature. The beauty of it all is that the act of gardening reciprocates with physical, emotional, and mental health benefits for the gardener.
Physical health benefits start the moment we step out into the garden. We take in the fresh air that oxygenates our blood, and bask in the sunshine that stimulates our skin to produce Vitamin D. Therefore, even by just standing outdoors, appreciating the majesty of the trees, the colorful bunches of flowers, or the rows of kitchen herbs, we already reap health benefits.
Depending on the type of garden we keep and the level of bustle we engage in, gardening can burn hundreds of calories per hour of activity. Heavy tasks like hoeing, turning a compost heap, digging a border trench or moving soil can work up a sweat. Regular tasks like pruning rosebushes, aerating soil, and pulling weeds could substitute for calisthenics. Even light tasks such as harvesting low-hanging fruits, seed starting, or misting orchids require some muscle stretching and flexing. Whatever we do to care for our plants or spruce up the yard, we can certainly call it exercise.
Because maintaining a garden and tending to growing plants cannot be achieved without considerable physical activity, the consequential benefits of exercise are inevitably enjoyed by the garden-lover. Regular gardening can build muscle, flex stiff joints, and improve cardiovascular circulation, which can only lead to a healthier body.
While the physical demands of gardening translate to a good workout, mere exposure to nature already enhances mental and emotional wellbeing. Research and shared experience have shown that being outdoors connecting with nature has positive mood-altering effects. To “stop and smell the roses” does have a relaxing and de-stressing impact on our emotional state. The splendor of cascading wisteria flowers and sprawling carnations not only mesmerizes us but also takes us away from our day-to-day worries and anxieties.
By marveling at our garden’s bounty, whether it’s a neat row of mini bell peppers, a patch of meticulously landscaped spring blooms, or flawlessly trimmed holly topiaries, we spontaneously calm down and unwind. And by focusing on the gardening task at hand, we automatically immerse in our alone time, similar to meditation, dissociating ourselves from common life stressors and apprehensions.
These meditative and calming gardening activities can range from hand-watering potted plants and deadheading blooms to laying down mulch and pruning evergreens. As long as the activity keeps us engrossed and concentrated on our connection with the life force of the growing plants around us, we are clutched in a sense of regeneration and rejuvenation. Lighter mood, lower blood pressure, less anxiety, and better immune functions are just some of the known health benefits of spending quality time with Mother Nature.
Aside from providing physical and emotional health benefits, puttering about among the greenery also contributes to spiritual enrichment. When we commit to growing a garden, from the day we drop the first seed into the soil or insert a new cutting into a pot, we become an integral part of the life process. We establish an attachment to the new organism that germinates from our efforts. This gives us a sense of belonging, an awareness of habitat, and a sentiment of home.
When we grow a garden of vegetables and crops with the purpose of harvesting for our kitchen and dinner table, we anticipate the abundance and look forward to consuming organic produce that we personally attended to. When we eat our own harvest, we make sure the fruits and veggies are grown and gathered in the best possible way for our family and friends. This kind of involvement gives the gardener the ultimate sense of accomplishment.
Growing seeds can be a test of patience but once the shoots and roots emerge, the flowers bloom, and the fruits ripen, we are caught in an overflowing feeling of success. And the natural tendency is when we sow, nurture, and harvest our own backyard fruits, vegetables, and herbs, we not only feel fulfilled, but are also encouraged to eat more of our nutritious homegrown foodstuff -- more health benefits!
Gardening is undoubtedly a demanding endeavor. It requires a certain level of dedication and responsibility, but not without bountiful rewards. Our patience is repaid with giant hydrangea blooms for the centerpiece and juicy backyard strawberries for dessert. Our hours of tilling, fertilizing, and pruning come back with the health benefits of cardio exercises. And as we marvel at seedlings grow into small nuggets of life affirmation, we indulge in the reassurance that gardening is really about wellness all around.
Find out more about how gardening is good for your health at these links:
-Ruby Bayan is a freelance writer with a degree in Biology. She picked up her love of gardens from her mother who grew plants for a living. She showcases her writing, crafts, and photography at her homepage: http://www.OurSimpleJoys.com